Recently, Chelsea Clinton opened up about breastfeeding and menstruation in an essay she wrote for Well+Good. In the piece, she delves into privilege that exists when it comes to who can breastfeed in public–and how women and girls often don’t have the resources they need to manage breastfeeding and menstruation.
“Many women cannot afford to buy or rent a pump, have inflexible work schedules, have to go back to work after just days or weeks of giving birth, and have no access to even a shred of privacy in which to pump at work. All of these challenges, coupled with the cultural stigma around breastfeeding (or pumping) in public, often lead women to choose to feed supplementary formulas or to stop breastfeeding their children altogether—even when they want to continue breastfeeding.
No woman should feel like she has to breastfeed—and no woman should feel like she can’t breastfeed because the costs or logistics of doing so are prohibitive. A 2016 report from Women’s Health Issues found that only 40 percent of women had access to both break time and a private space for pumping milk, despite federal law requiring women be provided with both.”
Because of the stigma and inflexibility with jobs, many women feel ashamed to breastfeed in public–and sometimes choose not to breastfeed at all because they feel they can’t. That’s wrong. Women’s health–and being a mom–shouldn’t be seen as a luxury. As she said, not every woman chooses to breastfeed, but if they do, they should have reasonable options.
Menstruation holds a similar stigma in our culture, as Clinton brought up. The fact that pads and tampons are seen as luxury items, and face taxes is absurd, as she points out:
“The average woman menstruates for 3,000 days in her lifetime, and far too many girls and women don’t have access to clean and safe sanitary products. According to UNICEF, one out of every ten girls in Africa misses school when she’s menstruating because she doesn’t have access to pads or clean water to wash them after use. That means the girls confront the fear of embarrassment monthly—and are missing school every month.”
She goes on to say:
“Indeed, pads and tampons are often an unaffordable luxury for families living in poverty—even though they’re not a luxury, they’re a necessity. Food stamps should cover sanitary products, and all states should recognize them as “necessities” (like food and medicine) and stop taxing them as luxury items.”